Feline Cancer: What are the Warning Signs?

The Warning Signs of Cancer in Cats

Not too long ago, when a cat owner learned that a pet had cancer, it meant a death sentence for the animal. But, thanks to advances in feline cancer research, things have changed.

Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells on or within the body. It may be localized, or it may invade adjacent tissue and spread throughout the body. Cancer is common in pet animals, and the rate increases with age. Dogs get cancer at roughly the same rate as humans, while cats get fewer cancers. Cancer accounts for almost half of the deaths of pets over 10 years of age.

Unfortunately, the cause of most cancers is not known and therefore prevention is difficult. One known cause of cancer is an injection, most often a vaccination, which may spur an overzealous inflammatory or immune system reaction to the vaccine. This is called an injection-site sarcoma. Other cancer, such as breast cancer, is largely preventable with early spaying. Fifty percent of all breast tumors in dogs and 85 percent of all breast tumors in cats are malignant. Spaying your pet prior to the first heat cycle will greatly reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Cancer can occur in almost any location or body system – for example areas such as the skin, gastrointestinal tract (stomach, bowels), urinary system (kidney or bladder), blood, nervous system (brain tumors), and bones.

Different types of tumors can grow in each location of the cancer. A cellular diagnosis is needed to determine the “type” of cancer. For example, cancer of the skin can be due to basal cell tumors, squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma and fibrosarcoma. Each tumor type within a location has a different treatment and prognosis.

Signs of Feline Cancer

Do you know the signs of cancer in cats? Cats get many of the same types of cancer as humans, and frequent physical exams and diagnostic tests help detect cancer before it is too late for treatment. Some common types of cancer in cats are:

What to Watch For

Signs of cancer in cats may include:

If you notice any of the symptoms, consult with your veterinarian. If found early, most of these cancers can be cured with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of the three, and early diagnosis will aid your veterinarian in delivering the best care possible.​​